Jenkins, Jeffrey S. (2017). Rare earth at Bearlodge: Anthropocentric and biocentric perspectives of mining development in a multiple use landscape. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, ePublication prior to print (doi 10.1007/s13412-016-0412-7)

Abstract: Multiple use livelihoods and recreational activities provide important economic opportunities for communities throughout the American West, especially in rural areas where public lands are the primary income generator. Federal lands also provide incentives for mining development as the “highest and best use” of the land. This tension among civil society, the mining corporation, and the state as dual regulator/facilitator of natural resource development is most apparent during the public comment period of the environmental assessment process. Such is the case with the Bearlodge mine in the Black Hills National Forest of Wyoming, which has the potential to be the only domestic producer of critical rare earth elements. Therefore, I ask: How do perspectives about control of and access to common property resources and the role of humans as part or separate from an ecological system converge or diverge among community, state, and market stakeholders? To answer this, a Q method survey was carried out from groups representative of the different economic and environmental perspectives related to mining development: environmentalists, the mining/energy sector, state/federal regulators, foresters, local land holders, and recreationalists. Results show that stakeholders fall into two categories: anthropocentrists who desire economic development from the mine for human benefit, even given the potential for environmental harm and curtailed access to multiple use activities; and biocentrists who continue to push for a no development alternative where nature is preserved for nature’s sake and existing livelihoods that help to maintain an already altered environment are able to remain and sustain rural economies.

Jeffrey S Jenkins <jjenkins8@ucmerced.edu> is in Social Sciences and Management, Sierra Nevada Research Institute, University of California—Merced, Merced, CA (USA).

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